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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Randi Kreiss
Spring has sprung. When will winter end?

I don’t know how they do it, but the prognosticators at the Farmers’ Almanac were right again this winter. Back in August they predicted:

“The eastern half of the country will see plenty of cold and snow. We predict that real winter weather will return to areas from the Great Lakes into the Northeast. Most eastern states — as far south as the Gulf Coast — will see snowier than normal conditions and cooler temperatures. We are ‘red flagging’ February 12-15 and March 20-23 for major coastal storms along the Atlantic seaboard; storms bringing strong winds and heavy precipitation.”

No one knows if the farmers-in-the-know examine crop patterns or animal scat, sunspots or phases of the moon. Their process is secret but their record is impressive. After a warmer-than-usual winter last year, they said winter would return with a vengeance in the Northeast in 2013, and it did.

The National Weather Service, which bases its forecasts on the most advanced meteorological technology, pretty much got the winter all wrong. And neither agency can hold a candle to my mother, whose knees told her back in October that a bad winter was coming.

This year, of course, the meteorological outlier was Superstorm Sandy. Many weather experts have said it was a once-in-100-years confluence of meteorological circumstances that produced the devastating tidal surges and winds of Oct. 29 and 30. We all know people who are permanently displaced, people who are rebuilding homes, those who have lost all the tangible memories of their lives. Caleb Weatherbee, the almanac’s weather guru, announced on Oct. 26 that he had been wrong about a “fair” forecast and that a monster hurricane was heading for the Northeast.

Sandy was followed by a tough winter, but there have been worse. Remember the Great Snow of 1717? Four storms left the Northeast under four feet of snow, and there were drifts up to 25 feet high. And that was before snowblowers. The Washington and Jefferson Snowstorm of 1772 trapped both men in their homes under three feet of the white stuff. In 1922, the Knickerbocker Storm dumped more than two feet of snow on D.C., collapsing the roof of the Knickerbocker Theater and killing 100 people.

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